A woman is pregnant, a fetus is found in her unborn child. What to do? Doctors take the baby out of her stomach, operate on it and insert it again. The procedure was successful.
The pregnant Bethan Simpson received a gruesome news: Her unborn child suffers from the so-called spina bifida, a neural tube malformation. Anyone who suffers from this disease is physically impaired: from difficulty walking to paraplegia.
The malformation occurred during the fine ultrasound during the prenatal diagnosis in the 20th week of gestation. The Briton from Maldon (Essex, England) listened to the shocking possibilities of the doctors: Will she abort her daughter? Or does she want to try out a new method of operation, which, however, is far from routinely practiced?
Bethan decided to become one of the UK’s first mothers undergoing the four-hour fetal surgery. At the time of the operation on January 8, 2019, at Great Ormond Street Hospital , the unborn baby was just 24 weeks old – unable to survive outside the mother.
The procedure can not completely cure the spina bifida. “It’s not a cure,” neurosurgeon Dominic Thompson told broadcaster BBC, “but there is clear evidence that the outlook for early surgery is much better.”
In a fetal surgery, the mother’s abdomen is opened under anesthesia and the baby is taken out. The spinal cord, which is split in the spina bifida, is surgically “sewn”, the baby then stowed back into the mother’s stomach.
Bethan told BBC : “After the operation I could feel her move, it was reassuring to feel the first kick after the anesthetic.” She will never forget the words of her neurosurgeon Dominic Thompson after the operation: “He said to me, ‘I held her baby in my hand.'” Her daughter Eloise is due to be born in April.
The 26-year-old is just the fourth woman in the UK to undergo this prenatal surgery. Somewhat more common are these operating theaters in the US and Belgium. The first operation of this kind was carried out in 1981 by Michael Harrison.
Bethan posted a statement on her Facebook page : “Every day I feel like she’s kicking me in. She’s extra special, she’s part of the story, and our daughter has shown how much she deserves to live.” About 80 percent of unborn babies in the UK who are diagnosed with spina bifida are aborted. Bethan Simpson’s daughter is not one of them.